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Getting to know Ellum: Maceo Plex’s forward-thinking underground label

The name Maceo Plex has become synonymous with dark, brooding dance music of the highest calibre. With a career spanning over two decades, it’s no surprise that the Barcelona-based producer has evolved into one of the scene’s most revered tastemakers. This is perhaps best epitomized by the esteem of Maceo’s homegrown label, Ellum.

Ellum isn’t like other imprints in the house and techno world. For one, it only releases music once a month (sometimes even less frequently). Secondly, the sound of the label is quite idiosyncratic. While oscillating between both richly melodic and strikingly bare compositions, it can always be found pushing futuristic, dystopian-like sounds. It’s the kind of haunting, groove-driven aesthetic that makes for some cerebral moments on the dancefloor.

Ellum began in 2011 as a platform for Maceo Plex’s own music. It’s first release was his High & Sexy EP. In the years that followed, the label would go on to bring in other artists such as Shall Ocin, Gardens of God, Dino Lenny, Fiberroot and more. Throughout all this, however, the process behind the label has remained largely mysterious.

In many ways, Ellum is the antithesis of the modern day imprint. It isn’t out to be the biggest. It doesn’t care about flashy promotion. Rather, it’s simply a consistent home to cutting edge releases from under-appreciated talent in the underground (with the occasional chart-topping bomb from Maceo himself).

To get a glimpse into the life of one of the underground’s most forward-thinking imprints, we spoke to four artists on Ellum about their thoughts on the label.

Catch Maceo Plex and his Ellum crew performing at Mosaic at Pacha Ibiza on October 3 and October 11, as well as at Amsterdam Dance Event with Audio Obscura on October 20. More info here.

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Photo credit: David Holderbach

–        Dino Lenny

How did you become involved with Ellum?
Three years ago I produced a track called “Living in a song” and I thought that it would be perfect for Ellum. So I sent over that one with some other tracks and Eric started hammering them. We had great mixes from Rebolledo, Gardens of God and Shall Ocin basically all the Ellum team joining in the project. Since then I felt part of the movement and I was super excited that “It’s Saturday” and “This is a Love Song” also were released. I’ve been making music for quite a while so I felt really strange but happily surprised that as soon as I joined I was musically comfortable like at home, it was like finding the right girlfriend at 40 ;)

How would you describe the music on the label?
Like the music I look for when I go record shopping .. “Really adventurous dark electronic music with a twist” but there is a little bit of electro, some film references a some indie too.
That’s what Ellum is for me.

What’s your favorite release on the label from another artist?
Maceo’s 808 dub of Odd Parents “Learn To Fly” is pretty sick, I still play it out a lot. It’s got everything, Funky, modern, breaky but also moody and powerful. Fiberroot’s “Soul for Sale” Ep is also a killer.

–        Architectural

How did you become involved with Ellum?
They asked me to make a remix for Agoria’s track, and I said yes, after this remix, they offered me to edit a complete EP, which seemed very interesting, because from my point of view, Ellum sounds are kind of different than mine, so it was a great opportunity to expose my music to different people.

How would you describe the music on the label?
Without making any judgement about the genre, which is very subjective nowadays… I think that Ellum releases have a very luminous sound, very alive and melodic, and also very effective on the dance floor.

What’s your favorite release on the label from another artist?
Maybe North Lake’s EP, it’s much more close to my musical line, both in the studio and in the sets, but I have to say that I haven’t heard the complete catalogue.

–        Raxon

How did you become involved with Ellum?
My first contact with any of the Ellum crew was with Shall Ocin back in 2014 at BPM and we kept in touch ever since, and then a year later I met Maceo when I moved to Barcelona.

How would you describe the music on the label?
Pushing the boundaries of the sound of the future. One of the many things I love about the label is that you can still listen back to the earlier releases and they still sound current fresh.

What’s your favorite release on the label from another artist?
That’s a very tough one.. every release is special in its own way, and that’s why I’m a fan at heart, some of my early fav releases are from Stephan Barnem, Shall Ocin, Gardens Of God and from the recent ones from Maceo’s Journey to Solar, Sefton, Fiberroot and Architectural. I’m happy to be surrounded with talented musician friends

–        Shall Ocin

How did you become involved with Ellum?
I don’t know the exact moment that this happened, Eric has been my friend for a long time before I joined the label. I’ve always been around, so it was natural to join the crew at a moment.

How would you describe the music on the label?
It’s very difficult to me to describe it, but I have to say it’s introspective and a little dark.

What’s your favorite release on the label from another artist?
A lot of the releases are awesome, it’s impossible to choose just one. One of them that is very special for me is “Fiberroot – Space Localizer “, but, really, most of them are my favorites.

Read More:

Maceo Plex ventures into new territory with the deeply emotive ‘Solar’ [Album Review]

Stream Maceo Plex’s harrowing ‘The Tesseract’ from his forthcoming EP

Techno Tuesday: Gardens of God on starting a label

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